April 16, 2020
Calvary’s COVID-19/Coronavirus Response
Friday, April 17, 2020 E-News
Dear Calvary Family,
Happy Easter! I hope this letter finds you healthy and well and doing the things you need to do to care for yourself and others physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
My letter to you this week is less about church updates and more of a devotional on Easter hope, although I do want to say THANK YOU so much for your generosity over the past few weeks. Check out the updates in this week’s E-news to see how your giving is making a tangible difference in the lives of those in need! I am inspired by our collective giving and impact and I pray that our contagion of generosity continues as we seek to support the important ministry of our church. It was also wonderful to see David Farwig in worship this weekend and to hear his voice. He is still suffering from some lingering COVID-19 side effects/symptoms but is gaining strength each day. We mourn with those in our church family who are grieving and who are separated from loved ones who are enduring critical medical situations; please take time to read our prayer list closely each week, as there is a mounting list of concerns and celebrations. And finally, thank you for worshipping with us virtually throughout Holy Week and Easter. Your presence and love is felt, deeply.
I know the season of COVID-19 is seemingly stretching on “forever,” and we are all probably getting cabin fever. We are fortunate to have homes in which to “shelter in place” and as I write this letter with snow falling outside, I feel for those who have no shelter, no home, no cabin…and for those who have a legitimate fever, those who are suffering from this intense novel coronavirus illness. As we ground ourselves in gratitude for the blessings of our life, I know that we cannot help but think of those who are experiencing and enduring this pandemic without such security. In my prayers these days, which are both praise and lament, I have been drawn to the words of the wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 3 this week:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
While the writer does not say there’s “a time for ‘staying at home’ during global pandemics and a time for frolicking about once the world re-opens,” we get the feeling from this wisdom that what we are enduring is indeed, a “season,” and that “this too shall pass.” And we do get the sense that something of our experience is captured in this poem, as we read phrases like “a time to be born and a tie to die,” “a time to weep and a time to laugh,” “a time to mourn and a time to dance,” “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.”
In the midst of this COVID-19 season, it can be hard to remember we are in the midst of another season right now too…the season of Eastertide. It has often been said that we who claim Christ as our Lord are an “Easter People;” we live in the power and hope of the resurrection. While we acknowledge the pain and death of Good Friday and the sometimes intolerable suffering that comes in the waiting of Holy Saturday, at our core, we are an Easter People because the tomb is empty, the stone has been rolled away, and death does not have the final word. Life prevails. And even more, to be an Easter people means that new life is born. Something that “hasn’t been before,” comes “to be.”
The question for us becomes - how do we live as an Easter people? This is our perpetual calling in the season of Eastertide even as we endure temporary seasons of suffering and disruption.
In his daily meditation today, Father Richard Rohr quotes Episcopal priest/mystic/author Cynthia Bourgeault who “makes a powerful distinction between ordinary hope, ‘tied to outcome…an optimistic feeling…because we sense that things will get better in the future’ and mystical hope ‘that is a complete reversal of our usual way of looking at things.’” Bourgeault continues:
“In contrast to our usual notions of hope, mystical hope…
· is not tied to a good outcome, to the future. It lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions.
· has something to do with presence—not a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.
· bears fruit within us at the psychological level in the sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction: an “unbearable lightness of being.” But mysteriously, rather than deriving these gifts from outward expectations being met, it seems to produce them from within…
[It] is all too easy to understate and miss that hope is not intended to be an extraordinary infusion, but an abiding state of being. We lose sight of the invitation—and in fact, our responsibility, as stewards of creation—to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this wellspring. We miss the call to become a vessel, to become a chalice into which this divine energy can pour; a lamp through which it can shine…
We ourselves are not the source of that hope; we do not manufacture it. But the source dwells deeply within us and flows to us with an unstinting abundance, so much so that in fact it might be more accurate to say we dwell within it…
The good news is that this deeper current does exist and you actually can find it…This journey to the wellsprings of hope is not something that will change your life in the short range, in the externals. Rather, it is something that will change your innermost way of seeing. From there, inevitably, the externals will rearrange…the journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.” [Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001), 3, 5, 9-10, 17, 20, 42.]
As we have gotten through the intense spiritual journey of Holy Week and have come through Easter morning, I invite us now as we live into the season of Eastertide to work on grounding ourselves “toward the innermost of our being where we meet and are met by God.” Or, as the poet/farmer Wendell Berry asks, how are we “practicing resurrection?”
Are we just enduring this season of COVID-19, riding it out, and trying to get through it the best we can? Well, yes. But we have another opportunity as well…to remember that over and above the season of COVID-19, we are in the season of Eastertide…the season of Resurrection…Rebirth…Hope and New Life…and our hope is found in something far deeper and greater than a cure or a vaccine. Our hope is found in the one who created us, calls us by name, knows our every prayer, and journeys with us. The One whose presence is within us and all around us, and who reminds us that this is a season and “this too shall pass.”
Can we feel the living presence of God with us in these days? I know it’s not easy. Know that I am with you on the journey - not looking for easy answers, but rather, looking for meaning and truth in this unfolding season of Eastertide…and for the enduring presence of our Risen Christ.
Living in “mystical hope” while seeking to “practice resurrection” with you,